Starting at the Beginning

…or at least finding out where (and when) the beginning actually is.

Or should be.

Traditionally, every story has a beginning, middle and an end – introducing the characters, adding a sense of conflict/danger (perhaps a dash of romance for good measure) and the eventual dénouement / resolution where things are resolved (for better or for worse) and all (or at least some) of the loose ends are tied up. In the midst of building the (quasi-alternate) universe of my main series saga WIP (the MASC Chronicles), exact details need to be finalized, and character/situation exposition should be fleshed out accordingly.

Of course, in the course of figuring out all that, the time continuum shifts and things get timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly rather quickly. Finding my way back to the warm(er) environs of the (mythical) Land of Exposition (which, will inevitably be explained in quasi-full detail at some vague later date), I keep pondering and re-pondering the exact details of that quasi-alternate (historical) universe, and the families that reside in it and interact with one another. The names sometimes change, and their roles shift from protagonist to antagonist (or situate in some grey area), but almost always, the family histories of these few families keeps growing. To the point where a potential prequel series is blended into the current story arc, if only to keep straight in my head how things got to be the way they are, when and who was responsible for what happened wherever happened and why. This is slightly different from the what if?” path (which widens the possibilities of where a story can end up) – building the Canon universe is as puzzling and tricky as thinking up of the AU universe(s). So it stands (at least as of right now) there will be expository stories to shed some light on the main story arc. While I had intended each novel to be stand-alone mysteries, the way the entire series saga is/was set up, there are elements that carry over within and between series.

Anyway.

And this pondering and plotting is only for the first series – akin to a partially submerged iceberg – I have yet to actually think about the details for series two and series three (though rough outlines generally made). I have a quasi-vague idea where and how the entire saga will play out – it’s just the details that are (still) hazy.

Actually!writing the narrative has prompted this revival of exposition-thinking and character adjusting, though I think I may have strayed (a bit) from the original tone of the series saga, straying into the subplot genres. Getting back on track is now the paramount task at hand, if I’m to actually!write these stories.

Knowing exactly where (and when) to start is the first step.

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Confession of a Writer

The writing process is a such an odd thing.

(Quasi) Confession: Roughly 95% of all the plotting, pondering and actual!writing I do happens at night. More specifically, my creative sweet spot starts around 9 pm and lasts until around midnight (or whenever I drift off to sleep), and even at that point, as I’m drifting off to sleep the plot bunnies and their plot minions whisper ideas and my characters keep talking or internally musing on whatever pops into their heads. I’m not quite sure why this is the case, but I seem to be more productive (and creative) during these hours – or at least my legion of muses are most active. While quasi-random ideas pop into head at (almost) all hours (sometimes in the oddest places), the plot points and quasi-epiphanies that develop during the nighttime hours seem to stick around longer than those dreamt up during the day.

Of course, I do drink a copious amount of (brewed) coffee [2% milk, not too much sugar, and a dash of cinnamon] during the day and nosh on [dark] chocolate covered espresso beans in the early evening hours (and sometimes during my peak plotting, pondering, actually!writing hours), so I suppose on a biological/chemical/scientific level, the daytime caffeine jolt takes it time to kick in, resulting in a surge in creativity during the nighttime hours.

Or something like that.

Anyway.

Working on the specifics of the actual narrative is proving to be an interesting process as I’ve been quasi-pantsing it – as 88% of the plot is sketched out (at best), the details are still quite nebulous. While actually!writing Series One, Book One of the MASC Chronicles, the appearance of an unexpected (new) character has subtly changed the quasi-established pacing of the narrative, and brings up more questions about exposition and (loose) plot threads that will (hopefully) be unraveled later on in the series. Those who follow this blog will know that I’m a Doctor Who fan (albeit a relatively new one) and actually like the Moffat-written episode arcs that drop seemingly harmless facts that end up being very important when the cliffhanger PLOT TWIST is revealed.

So now I’m at a point (still very early on in the actual!writing process, as I tend to stop and plot and ponder the 1,800-something different ways the plot can meander) where decisions need to be made as to how the story will unfold, in which direction it will take, and how it might/will impact the rest of the series and saga.

Much the same can be said about Carpe Noctem, the fan fiction novel (currently on hiatus) – as this weekend marks the 12th anniversary of Dance of the Vampire‘s closing weekend, my mind wanders (every now and then) to this novel (which I still intend to finish writing one of these days). As it stands, it will be a fuller retelling of the musical’s plot, with (original) extensive exposition of its main protagonists and antagonists.

[Note: this is an exploration of DOTV and not of Tanz der Vampire, the original German version of the adaptation of the lesser known cult film The Fearless Vampire Killers. While I liked Tanz, I’m not as familiar with it or have a nostalgic feeling towards it as I have with Dance.]

Again, about 79% of the plot points have been sketched out, and almost two chapters (and a prologue) have been written thus far (the most actual!writing I’ve actually!written in the past few years). Whether or not original elements dreamt up for this fan fiction will feature in the series saga is (still) debatable.

Nevertheless, I should be Braver Than I Am, and Say A Prayer that everything will make sense when all is said and done (or rather plotted and written.)

Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight.

General Updates and Other Musings

In keeping with the ongoing (!) continuous (!!) weekly blog posts about my writing process (though it’s become more of a platform for quasi-vague musings about plotting and pondering and editing whilst actually!writing), some general updates about the various works in progress:

  • Still plotting, pondering and refining the (very) general overall narrative arc for the MASC Chronicles, the Steampunk/mystery/science fantasy series saga inspired by a ghost story written half a lifetime ago. Due to a massive amount of over-thinking, several cups of coffee and binge watching Downton Abbey (again), a game of musical novels has emerged. Moreover, a prequel story has supplanted a canon story, leading to a non-linear sequence of events. Timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly. Then again, the order in which the stories will (eventually) be published will be different from the order in which they are written. Maybe.
  • Fleeting thoughts have strayed towards Carpe Noctem, the fan fiction novel based on the short-lived, under-appreciated musical Dance of the Vampires, which usually happens around this time of year. Thus far, I’ve written the most actual!narrative for this story, though much of it is expository, with great leaps of time between chapters and a host of original characters amid the established characters. Whether or not there’ll be crossover characters with the aforementioned series saga is still debatable.
  • The 2014 NaNoWritMo effort, Blind Dark Windows (the contemporary romance) is on hiatus, though I will return to it some day (as I had giggle fits plotting and adding as many nerdy/geeky/dorky references to the various TV series/movies I like). Again, there may (or may not) be a link to the main WIP, though at this point, it’s a tentative one.
  • The meta-writing series, (still) tentatively entitled Into My Head is perpetually poking about in my head, as the process of working on these series is fodder for this series – a series within a series within a series (of sorts). Writing a story series about writing a series is not a new concept, nor is it a novel one (pun intended), but it’s one that has induced giggle fits and general flailing arms towards the laptop screen, with mini dances of joy at the sheer madness of the strange ideas the Muses inspire.

Per usual, there’s a whole lot of thinking, plotting and outlining, and not too much actual!writing. Organizing (almost) everything so that things fall into place (or at least make some sense) is the first priority – it’s usually good to know where the path will lead before actually paving the way, though the road may meander during the laying of the foundation. Details are also important, as well as sequence of events and perspective: I’ve stuck with writing in first person perspective for Series One of the MASC Chronicles, even though Carpe NoctemBlind Dark Windows and Into My Head are in third person (mostly) omniscient.

The (impossible) dream is that all the aforementioned projects have some connection with one another (however tenuous), which means that there are a LOT of moving parts to this puzzle, and figuring out who goes where and when and how and why is the never-ending challenge.

Whether or not it’s a good idea is another story, no doubt discussed in the meta series.

Refining and Reshuffling the Order (Again)

Once again I wander (back) into the Land of Exposition via the Road Seldom Taken Yet Well Traveled. (One of these days/weeks/months/years I’ll get around to that Meta Tale of the Epic Saga of the Inner Workings of An Author, tentatively entitled Into My Head.) Seems I can’t get away from plotting and pondering the narrative structure, story arc and/or character exposition, even when I’m actually!writing (and concurrently editing) the narrative. I’m fairly sure this is a common occurrence in the actual!writing process, even with a (tentatively) structured outline, as ideas pop into the head while writing the narrative, dialogue and internal monologue.

Writing a story (of any length) is a process with a lot of moving parts – character relationships and plot twists that lead to a satisfactory (and logical) dénouement. While each novel within each series is a stand-alone tale, there will be plot and character elements that will connect each novel (and eventually inevitably each series), creating a (quasi) tangled web of cross references and Easter eggs. Logically, I shouldn’t worry think that far ahead in the series saga, but my quasi-OCD tendencies compel me to want to map everything out (or at least have a rough outline of what could/might/should/would happen).

Anyway.

While focusing on Novel One of Series One, a bit of pondering and that aforementioned bit of actual!writing has led to the (energy-saving) light bulb epiphany that Novel One of Series One works better (or at least makes more sense given the smattering of narrative actually!written) as Novel Two of Series One. Thankfully (?) I’ve generally plotted out the theme of each novel in Series One, so rearranging the first two novels, along with moving the intended prequel novel to later position in the series, reassigning the prequel plot status to a (relatively) earlier novel in the series which had intended to be a canon story.

It’ll make sense in the end, when it’s all been written.

Hopefully.

As the actually!written narrative proceeds to be extracted from my head (the virtual distance between my head through my fingers and into Word is still a long, winding road), there will be more changes and a re-reshuffling of the novels.

Then again, as the novels are (for the most part) stand alone stories, the sequence of events is relative once the stories are written – in other words, once all (or at least most) of the novels are written, the order in which they will (hopefully and inevitably) be published is relative. After all, time is not a line, it’s well…

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

Minor note to the aforementioned reshuffling order of the series: in plotting out the exposition for the main characters in the series, a prequel story emerged, quasi-influenced by my (new) acute fixation on Downton Abbey though the idea had been treading water in my head (and in my archived files) long before the series started. Thus far there will be one expository/prequel novel (and perhaps a short story or several) based on the generation before the main characters in Series One.

Only when one knows from where the character came can one know where the characters will go. [I think I made that up – or maybe I read it somewhere and paraphrased it.]

Either way, it sounds profound.

Setting Resolutions and Goals

What a difference a year makes.

Three days into 2015, and in a continuing effort to update musings and such from this time last year, it seems an ideal time to declare resolutions and set goals for the new year. As the 2014 Writing Prompt Project has stalled, with hopes of continuing it if the mood (and muses) arises, thoughts as to setting goals for 2015, with the everlasting wish of actually!writing a novel (or at least a quasi-decent first draft). The ideas swirl about in the creative corners of my mind, though fitting the pieces together is always the tricky part.

Of course stating a goal and actually accomplishing said goal are two different things.

Throughout the full year in writing this blog, I’ve plotted and pondered the various quirks for the multitude of characters in the WIP, yet have (purposely) imparted very little detail here. Creative fictional writing is always in a state of flux, with seemingly minor details change the overall shape of the narrative arc, and I tend to want to have some sort of solid ground upon which to work before explaining anything. Needless to say, the MASC Chronicles (aka the Epic Saga) remains shrouded in a thin fog of mystery, and will probably remain so until things become clearer in my mind.

[Yes, I am quite aware that I’ve said/written this before, but new ideas and the omnipresent “what if…?” open up new tangents down which the story can travel.]

Also, another update from (roughly) this time last year – I had stated that I had not watched any of Downton Abbey for fear of inadvertently “borrowing” ideas from the series, yet in the latter weeks of 2014, I began to binge-watch the series, prompted by the opportunity to attend an exclusive PBS event previewing the show’s 5th series/season, an event that included a Q&A with select members of the cast and creative team. It’s a fine show (and among the most popular PBS series, ratings-wise), and my initial reluctance in watching it was a moot point, as earlier drafts of my series saga utilized some of the basic elements of the series [dreamt up years before the series started], some of which still remain in the current (plotting) draft.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

Perhaps this year I will forgo continuing the Writing Prompt challenge, and any other extraneous projects in favor of actually!writing the first draft of the first book in the first series of the MASC Chronicles, as it has been pointed out [by fellow writers] that I should focus on one series, instead of plotting and pondering the entire saga.

So be it.

Hopefully in the weeks/months to come, I will actually extract some of the narrative that has been jangling in my head (and hope that it makes some semblance of sense) so I can use this blog as I had intended to – to chronicle the journey of actually!writing a novel. Perhaps I’ll impart some actual details about the characters, the world in which they live and the adventures they have.

Stranger things have happened.

Here’s to the new year, with all its promises of productivity and actually getting stuff done.